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Hemolytic crisis

Contents of this page:

Alternative Names   

Hemolysis - acute

Definition    Return to top

Hemolytic crisis occurs from the rapid destruction of large numbers of red blood cells (hemolysis). The destruction occurs much faster than the body can compensate by producing more red blood cells.

Considerations    Return to top

A hemolytic crisis causes acute (and often severe) anemia, because the body cannot make enough red blood cells to replace those destroyed. The part of red blood cells that carries oxygen (hemoglobin) is released into the circulation, which can lead to kidney damage.

Causes    Return to top

There are many causes of hemolysis, including:

Many of these conditions can lead to a hemolytic crisis.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit    Return to top

Emergency treatment may be necessary. This may include a hospital stay, oxygen, blood transfusions, and other treatments.

When your condition is stable, your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask questions, such as:

The physical examination may occasionally show swelling of the spleen (splenomegaly).

Tests may include:

References    Return to top

Schwartz RS. Autoimmune and intravascular hemolytic anemias. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 164.

Golan DE. Hemolytic anemias: red cell membranes and metabolic defects. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 165.

Update Date: 11/23/2008

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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